Italian pleads guilty to manuscript scam

An Italian man admitted on Jan. 6 to stealing more than 1,000 unpublished manuscripts, including from distinguished authors, solving a mystery that had rocked the literary world for years.

Filippo Bernardini, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, federal prosecutors in New York announced in a statement.Bernardini, who worked in London for publisher Simon & Schuster, impersonated agents and publishers over email to obtain novels and other works from writers and their representatives.

The scam had been known in literary circles for several years with Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Sally Rooney among the novelists reportedly targeted.

It became public knowledge in January last year when Bernardini was arrested by FBI agents at New York's JFK Airport.
Beginning in August 2016, and continuing up to his arrest, the Italian impersonated hundreds of real people in the world of publishing by sending emails from fake accounts.

The addresses resembled the domain names of legitimate publishers but with a letter changed here and there. Prosecutors say he registered more than 160 fraudulent domains.

"Filippo Bernardini used his insider knowledge of the publishing industry to create a scheme that stole precious works from authors and menaced the publishing industry," said Damian Williams, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).

In 2019, Atwood's agent revealed that the manuscript for "The Testaments" had been targeted.

In 2021, New York Magazine reported that the Swedish editors of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" series had been approached by a purported colleague in Italy who requested an advance copy so that it could be translated before release.

A New York Times investigation at the end...

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